My Family Tree

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Babienco. Though I proudly claim the US as my home, I’ve often been asked about my surname’s country of origin.  To be honest, it’s not something I had thought about that much, as Babienco is just a surname, something I’ve carried around my whole life. Even though I’ve been told my last name sounds rather Ukrainian, I’ve often joked about it being Italian (while pronouncing my last name with a Super Mario accent). This all changed about two weeks ago, when I made a surprising discovery that lead me to a deeper understanding of my heritage.

The other night, Brianna and I thought it would be fun to “google” my last name and see if I shared any relation with her dad’s friend from dental school, who shared the same last name as I. Babienco isn’t a common surname like “Smith” or “Brown” so we wondered if there could be any connection. I’ve googled my name before, but this time something I had never seen before popped up. We followed a link to a webpage featuring a picture from the Loma Linda University Digital Archive:

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The caption read “Axentie T. Babienco Studying in his Library.” Below was another description that said “Loma Linda University School of Medicine, class of 1929.” Brianna asked if I had ever heard of an Axentie T. Babienco before, to which I replied I hadn’t.  Our curiosity growing, we sent a message to my dad who promptly replied, “Axentie is my dad’s dad. He practiced in San Diego where my dad grew up.”

I was shocked! Almost 85 years ago, my great-grandfather had graduated with his MD from the very school I now attend! This whole time, I thought I was the very first in my family to go into medicine.  But in reality, not only do I have a direct ascendant that practiced medicine, but someone who attended Loma Linda University! Without any clue, I have been continuing a journey started by my great-grandfather.

Not only that, but I guess my great-grandmother, Lucille Babienco, continued to live in Loma Linda until she died in 1992.  She was buried in Montecito Memorial Park, only a few minutes from where I currently live.  I’ve been so close this entire time and had no idea!

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These discoveries naturally led to other questions about my family history. My dad forwarded me some documents that tell the story of how the name Babienco came to America from Ukraine in the late 1800’s.  I won’t go into too much detail now as I could go on for hours and hours about my great-great-grandfather’s imprisonment and exile for trying to preach Adventism, and how he was smuggled into Romania and then Canada to have the ability to practice more religious freedom. It is quite the story so you should ask me about it sometime! 😉

For now I am just incredibly honored to continue a legacy of Babienco’s at Loma Linda University (turns out Axentie’s younger brother Allorie Babienco also graduated from LLUSM), even though I am just now discovering one even exists! I hope that doesn’t sound elitist or arrogant or anything, but I hope you can imagine the surprised look on my face when I discovered my dream of practicing medicine isn’t as unique as I once thought it was. Pretty cool if you ask me!

Speaking of dreams, my class and I share this common dream of acing a little exam we have coming in less than 60 days… USMLE Step I is just around the corner! I’m not sure if I ever explained the “joy” that is Step I, so stay tuned for a future blog post that highlights a not-so-little exam every med student must pass on his or her way to earning a degree!

Before I go, here’s some completely unrelated pictures from a random trip Brianna and I took to Arizona the weekend before last.  She felt bad I would not be getting a real spring break this year (I spent it doing a Step I review course), so she was only the best wife ever and took me to see my favorite baseball team play a spring training game or two:

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Go Reds!

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Surprise Stadium, AZ

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Getting Autographs! Matt Latos Signs My Baseball.

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Brianna Waits for Brandon Philips

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So Cool!

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Great Seats at Goodyear Ballpark

59 days to USMLE Step I!